MURRAY — Down 21-14, with less than four minutes remaining in the game and the favored Alta Hawks lining up for a chip-shot field goal, the Cottonwood Colts needed a miracle.
Twenty-eight seconds and two touchdowns later, the Colts were convinced there was an unseen force that helped them to their surprise 28-21 win.
On a night when the team honored former head coach Teko Johnson, who died suddenly this summer after just a few months on the job, many of his players felt he was right there alongside them.
The field goal attempt was undone by a fumbled snap. While the ball toiled on the ground, Alta kicker Parker Timmerman attempted to kick it anyway, only to see it roll straight into the hands of Cottonwood linebacker Anthony Lewis. Eighty yards later, Lewis was in the end zone and the game was tied at 21-21 with three minutes remaining.
Four plays later, Hawks quarterback Boston Handley heaved a long toss toward midfield, only to see it find the arms of Cottonwood's Kami Sofele. Sofele scampered down the sideline for a 52-yard, go-ahead score.
"My coaches kept telling me to keep backing up and just watch the receivers," Sofele said. "When I got the chance, I took it. This was all heart tonight."
Handley would drive Alta to a first-and-goal, only to throw three incompletions as time ran out. The Colts players, coaches and fans poured onto the field for an emotional celebration.
"I told the guys that we had someone looking down on us tonight," Cottonwood head coach Josh Lyman said. "Teko was definitely there. We felt his presence tonight."
The late dramatics capped off a night of jittery, opening-night football by both teams. Alta's Handley would finish with 258 yards passing and two touchdowns, alongside two interceptions — both thrown to Sofele.
Cottonwood received a surprisingly poised performance from sophomore quarterback Cooper Bateman, who displayed a strong arm and speed to complement a steady night from running back Nadan Hosea.
The Hawks suffered through mistakes throughout the night, including four trips to the Cottonwood red zone. Three turnovers and a touchdown called back due to penalty will haunt them, but credit also belongs to an opportunistic Colts defense that frequently kept the high-flying Hawks' offense grounded.
Defensive linemen Gavin Faurot and linebacker Luke King each registered quarterback sacks as part of an effort that kept Handley from ever truly getting settled in the pocket.
"We can be down 50, I'm still going to believe in this team," Lewis said. "We've been waiting to get back out on the field after this summer."
The teams traded touchdowns through three quarters, beginning with an 80-yard bomb from Handley to Jovan London. Bateman would then march Cottonwood downfield with long passes for two touchdowns. Alta's Taylor Eyring would then score twice, once on the ground and another through the air, setting up the late dramatics.
The Hawks must regroup to face Bingham next week at Rice-Eccles Stadium, while Cottonwood receives an injection of confidence for their game at Skyline.
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